herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Harrowing roll-call of children failed by State

IT was a sickening roll-call. Minister for Children Barry Andrews presented to the Dail a list of the 20 children who had died while in State care in the last decade.

There are several cases where reviews are still ongoing, and the sketchy details made for grim listening.

There was a suicide in 2006, and a suicide in April 2008. February 2009 saw another suicide, while a death in 2006 was the focus of a recent murder trial.

In 2007, a child was lost to an overdose. A similar tragedy occurred in July 2009.

Equally shocking was the list of six cases deemed completed, as there is no further action planned. A child in care died of an overdose in 2000, but no review was carried out as it was deemed "unnecessary".

Minister Andrews stalled at this, meekly pointing out: "It's very much the practice now that we wouldn't ignore the duty to investigate these types of cases now."

The list continued. An overdose in 2000 had claimed the life of a child, and another death from an overdose was recorded in 2005.

The list continued. And as Minister Andrews worked through it, silence prevailed, a rarity in the Leinster House chambers.

His speech was met with derision by Fine Gael's Alan Shatter, who had published the report into the tragic death of Tracey Fay.

Deputy Shatter pointed out: "If I was Minister for Children and within a short time of coming into office that there were 20 children in the care of the State who had died in a decade, I would want to know the exact circumstances in relation to each child.

"I would want to know the care provided to each child, if something went wrong, exactly what went wrong, I'd want to ensure that there was accountability and transparency, and that investigations were conducted in a thorough manner.

The comments of Labour's Joan Burton were equally damning.

The current situation, she said, is one of endless cycles of reporting, and yet nothing gets published. Consequently, the general public remains ignorant of the problems to be addressed and people in authority have no opportunity to learn about what can be done to remedy the horrific situation.

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